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Prosecutor’s report shows struggle before Trayvon Martin’s death

Report shows struggle before Trayvon Martin’s death

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin from very close range, according to documents a Florida prosecutor released Thursday that indicate a hand-to-hand struggle occurred before the teenager was killed.

A lab report found holes and gunshot residue on the two sweatshirts Martin was wearing that were consistent with a “contact shot,’’ meaning the muzzle of the gun was pressed against Martin’s chest.

An autopsy report said that the wound in Martin’s chest indicated that he was shot from an “intermediate range,’’ which experts say is between 1 and 18 inches away.

The range of the gunshot is among new details in the documents that add to the portrait of what happened the night of Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., the shooting of a black teenager that provoked nationwide debates over racial profiling and self-defense laws.

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Toxicology results also show that Martin had THC in his blood that night, a chemical that is found in marijuana.

Also among the many witness interviews were accounts by an acquaintance of Zimmerman’s who said he’s racist and a co-worker who said Zimmerman bullied him and mocked him with an exaggerated Middle Eastern accent.

It is unclear how the physical evidence represented in the trove of more than 100 pages of documents might affect the state’s case against Zimmerman, who is Hispanic. Some of it could bolster Zimmerman’s account that he was fighting for his life when he shot Martin.

For example, the information includes laboratory reports that show traces of blood in Martin’s fingernails, Zimmerman’s blood on Martin’s sweatshirt, and Martin’s blood on Zimmerman’s red jacket. Martin’s autopsy report shows that he had a small abrasion on his left fourth finger, which might be evidence of a struggle.

On the other hand, the documents include a report from the Sanford police lead investigator, Christopher Serino, saying that he thought there was probable cause to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter.

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The new documents include crime-scene photographs, interviews with witnesses, and medical reports, and they provide the most detailed look yet at the evidence that prosecutors are using to build their case against Zimmerman, who was charged last month with second-degree murder. He has said that Martin attacked him and that he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense.

The bullet entered Martin’s body on the left side of his chest, went through his two sweatshirts, struck his heart and lung, and remained in his body, according to medical reports.

Martin’s shooting sparked nationwide rallies calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and focused public attention on racial profiling, gun laws, and a raft of “stand your ground’’ laws passed in recent years that have expanded the legal grounds for justifiable homicide.

Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, received the documents Monday as part of the discovery phase of the case.

“Please remember and understand that it is inappropriate for us to comment on particular pieces of evidence,’’ the lawyer said in a statement posted to the website he set up for Zimmerman.

The documents include new details about what witnesses said they heard and saw that rainy night outside their peach-colored townhouses in the gated complex.

One witness told police that he heard someone saying, “I’ve got a gun. I’ve got a gun.’’

Another said she heard “arguing’’ coming from behind her residence. Yet another woman said she looked out her sliding glass door and saw “two men chasing each other, a fistfight between the two men, and then she heard a gunshot,’’ according to the police report.

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A distraught woman tells an investigator that she stays away from Zimmerman because he’s racist and because of things he’s done to her in the past, but she didn’t elaborate on what happened between them.

“I don’t at all know who this kid was or anything else. But I know George, and I know that he does not like black people. He would start something. He’s very confrontational. It’s in his blood. We’ll just say that,’’ the unidentified woman says in an audio recording.

A man whose name was deleted from the audio told investigators said he worked with Zimmerman in 2008 for a few months. It wasn’t clear which company it was.

The man, who described his heritage as “Middle Eastern,’’ said that when he first started many employees didn’t like him, and Zimmerman seized on this and bullied him.

Zimmerman wanted to “get in’’ with the clique at work so he exaggerated a Middle Eastern accent and when talking about him, the man said. The employee told investigators that Zimmerman made reference to terrorists and bombings when talking about him, the man told investigators.

The documents were released by special prosecutor Angela Corey.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.